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What is Ear Cancer?

Tumors may develop from any of the structures lining or supporting the ear canal, including the outer layer of skin, the glands that produce earwax and oil, or any of the bones, connective tissues, muscles, or middle layers of the skin. The most common benign tumors in both cats and dogs are inflammatory polyps, papillomas, basal cell tumors, and ceruminous gland adenomas (tumors of glands producing earwax). More common in cats than dogs, ceruminous gland adenocarcinoma is the primary malignant tumor of the sweat glands that is found in the external auditory canal. Though rare, it is one of the most common malignant tumor of the ear canal in older dogs.Although the exact cause of ear canal tumors is unknown, it is thought that longterm inflammation of the ear canal may lead to an abnormal growth and development of tissue, and finally to the formation of a tumor. Signs of ear canal tumors include ear discharge (waxy, pus-filled, or bloody) in one ear, a foul odor, head shaking, ear scratching, swelling or draining abscesses near the ear, and deafness. In any case of inflammation in one ear that does not respond to treatment, a tumor of the ear canal should be suspected by an veterinarian.

Ear Cancer Average Cost

From 187 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$8,000

Symptoms of Ear Cancer in Dogs

  • Ear tumors can usually be seen as firm nodules or plaques located in the ear canals, auricular meatus (opening of the ear) and/or pinna (ear flap). They can be pink, white or purplish in color. Most often they will not be visible. If in the canal they are not visible without scoping the ear. If in the middle of internal ear a CT or MRI is necessary to visualize. Be sure to ask the veterinarian about this.
  • Tumors can be ulcerated and cause bleeding or discharge from the ear(s).
  • There may be an odor from the ear.
  • Itchiness or pain, especially if the middle or inner ear is involved, may cause certain mechanical problems such as tilting of the head, head shaking, listing to one side or loss of balance, circling, ear scratching or difficulty blinking.
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Causes of Ear Cancer in Dogs

  • The exact causes of ear tumors are not straightforward, but there is evidence that recurrent and long-term inflammation of the ear canal could be one culprit. It can lead to abnormal growth of tissue and eventually into the formation of a tumor.
  • Certain dog breeds have ear canals which are compressed, such as dish-faced dogs like Pugs. Others have long or heavy drooping ears which keep the ear canals continually covered and moist. This breed feature can predispose certain types of dogs to bacterial and yeast infections of the ears. Again, this leads to inflammation and thickening of tissues.
  • Ear mites (parasites) are another condition causing irritation and inflammation, and repeated infestations can lead to the overgrowth of tissues and possible transformation to cancerous growths.
  • Thickening secretions from earwax glands when the external ear canal is inflamed may stimulate the production of cancerous cells.
Types

Many ear tumors are polyp-like growths which may arise and attach by a narrow base or stalk to any of the structures that line or make up the ear canal. This would include, but not be limited to, the outer layer of skin, the glands that produce earwax and oil, or even bones, connective tissues and muscles. Malignant tumors (Ceruminous gland adenocarcinomas) are more commonly seen than the benign form (adenomas). Benign or malignant tumors that develop from the earwax glands in the external ear canal seem to appear more in middle-aged or older dogs. Also, there is an increased risk for ear tumors in dogs which have a history of chronic otitis (ear infections), such as Cocker Spaniels and dish-faced dogs like Pugs.

Malignant tumors are locally aggressive and have the potential to metastasize (spread) to the nearby lymph nodes, salivary glands or lungs. Benign tumors usually grow and compress tissues, but usually do not invade tissues or spread to other areas. Rarely, other cancers can occur in the ear canals or on the pinna, (ear flaps) [“leather”] of the ears, such as various carcinomas, i.e. squamous cell, and benign tumors like inflammatory polyps, papillomas and basal cell tumors.

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Diagnosis of Ear Cancer in Dogs

It is not possible through medical observation or physical examination alone to determine with certainty whether lumps in the ear(s) are non-cancerous or malignant, and will spread. More definitive diagnosis of these tumors requires blood tests, urinalysis evaluation and biopsy. The tumors may be visualized with deep otoscopic examination, which typically requires sedation or anesthesia. Advanced imaging with CT or MRI may also be suggested to determine the extent of the tumor(s). A biopsy can be taken during the otoscopic exam or through surgery. Other biopsies of the lymph node, as well as chest x-rays, are usually performed to determine if tumors, which present as malignant have metastasized (spread elsewhere in the body). The veterinary pathologist at a specialized diagnostic lab will examine the cells of biopsied tissue under a microscope and then provide as definitive a diagnosis as possible.

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Treatment of Ear Cancer in Dogs

The treatment of choice for ear canal tumors is surgical excision. Laser surgery is very effective when it is available. For benign tumors this can be curative when they are completely removed.

Aggressive surgery is the preferred treatment for malignant tumors. It often involves removal of the ear canal and cleaning out the inner ear. This surgery is typically referred to as a total ear canal ablation (TECA). Most dogs can live an additional 2 years or more after aggressive surgery.

Radiation therapy is utilized in some cases to relieve pain and slow the growth of the tumor(s). This can also be used for the intent of curing when surgical excision is incomplete. However, when conservative surgery is performed, the prognosis is decreased significantly.

If a tumor seems to be aggressive, based on the biopsy, or if there is evidence of metastasis, then chemotherapy may be recommended. That said, if there is involvement of the deep parts of the ear, or spread of the cancer to lymph nodes or lungs, the prognosis is poor.

The veterinarian can offer a more complete outlook for the possible results of any surgery or other treatments. It is important to note that treating animals with cancer takes a strong commitment on the part of the owner. Therapy requires frequent trips to the veterinary hospital and can be expensive. In fact, some treatments may continue for a lengthy period of time, and require you to present your dog for treatment at precisely when requested by the veterinarian since the timing of cancer therapy is critical for obtaining an optimal outcome.

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Recovery of Ear Cancer in Dogs

The most important management tasks after surgery are to keep the operation site clean and to prevent the dog from scratching or rubbing its ears. This will reduce the possibility of contamination, infection, bleeding, swelling and any loss of sutures. Special collars are usually placed on the dog to prevent scratching about the head. Topical medications may also be included. The veterinarian will detail all of the necessary post-surgical care and follow-up appointments. Medicines administered at home should be done exactly as instructed.

In many cases, surgery leads to a cure. However, in some others, surgery (or various treatments) will only provide a period of remission, with the cancer recurring. Your commitment to your pet and your veterinarian's dedication to providing state-of-the-art care will work together to keep your dog as happy and comfortable as possible.

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Cost of Ear Cancer in Dogs

Finding out that your furry family member has cancer is one of the hardest things to go through. We become so attached to our pets that sometimes we don’t consider the overall cost for their health and well-being. However, it is something to be aware of. Anesthesia may be required if the veterinarian wishes to view the tumors with a deep otoscopic exam. This test can cost around $40. The biopsy is necessary to conclude whether the tumor is benign or malignant. A biopsy can cost between $160 and $170. The veterinarian might choose an aggressive surgery if the tumor was malignant. This surgery can cost between $1,500 and $2,500. The veterinarian may then choose radiation therapy to assist in pain relief and to help shrink the tumor. This can cost $2,000 to $6,000. Chemotherapy may also be an option which can cost $1,000 per treatment or a total of $6,000 to $10,000. The total cost of treating your dog’s cancer will be substantial.

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Ear Cancer Average Cost

From 187 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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Ear Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Max

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German Shepherd

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking Head
Tilted Head
Pain When Ear Is Touched
Trouble Yawning

Max has been showing signs of obvious discomfort in his left ear for the past 3 weeks. When he yawns, he yelps and tries to stop himself from yawning. When he lays down he avoids his left side. He yelps when I touch his ear and the area around it. And currently he whines when he puts his head down as he is eating food. He doesn't like water, so swimmer's ear is out of the question. I've been to a vet with him for this problem a week ago and the vet said there was nothing visibly wrong with him, (no pus, bleeding, or signs of mites). Maybe there is some sort of debris? He goes back to the vet for an x-ray this week, but I feel like there wouldn't be anything to show. Thoughts?

Aug. 10, 2018

Max's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Max it is difficult to say what the specific cause may be, however whilst ear issues may be a possible cause other issues may involve the temporomandibular joint (which is located beside the ear and may be the result of the pain) or myositis of the the masseter muscles. An x-ray would be useful to rule out issues with the temporomandibular joint. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 10, 2018

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Toffee

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Jack Russell Terrier

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13 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Discharge
Head/Ear Tilt
Small Mass

Our 13 year old Jack Russel has been a long term sufferer of ear infections in his right ear, however, recently over the past months they have worsened and there is a small mass behind his ear under the skin - he's had more black coloured discharge from his ear (which we have been cleaning with a mixture of vinegar and water) and is more prone to titling and shaking his head. Although he mostly seems to be in good spirits and is rather old now, does this seem like a cancerous lump? And what treatment would you recommend - as vet bills and any operations are very expensive, is it best just to let him be while he's happy another and let nature take it's course? Thank you

June 4, 2018

Toffee's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Without examining a mass and determining mobility of the mass, firmness, origin among other factors; it is difficult to give a specific opinion on what the mass may be. Any mass should be checked by your Veterinarian regardless of your intention to operate just so that it can be monitored and your Veterinarian may take an aspirate to determine contents which will help in making a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 5, 2018

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Buck

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Labrador Retriever

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking Head
Infection
Growth
"Itching"

My Labrador a week an a half ago had a very uncomfortable night. Shaking his head itching whining a bit. He was acting like he got something in his ear. I checked on him a few times and it seemed okay. The next morning I looked and he had puss discharge from his ear. He also was coughing and sneezing. He had in the past had some issues with allergies. So I gave him some diphenhydramine. It seemed to help and within a week he was no coughing or sneezing anymore his ear still bothered him. I had been doing some 1 part Hydrogen peroxide and 1 part water cleaning of his ear and he liked that. I did that every other day. I also used an ear wash solution my vet had recommended. He seemed to be doing better every day. Still very clingy but wants to go do stuff. He normally loves swimming but last few times we have been around water he just didn't go in. Well, 5 days ago I noticed at the bottom of his ear canale a small matting of hair. I thought maybe it was just some hair matted from some discharge from his ear still. I cleaned it up with some hydrogen peroxide/water. I noticed it seemed to be like a scab about the side of a pencil eraser. 5 days later it is about the size of a marble. Hair is gone on the top of the growth it is somewhat pink in color mostly looks like sink after a scab came off too early. There is another growth right next to it about the size the first one was when I notice it. Other than all the hair on the top side is also rubbed off or missing. He doesn't scratch is much but wants to rub his head on the ground scratching it. The question is. It will be a little more than 2 weeks before I have the vets appointment. -Is there something more I can do now? -Do I keep using the ear wash? -Do I put Neosporin on the growth? -Do I start giving him diphenhydramine again? (his cough and sneezing are gone) -Do I push to get an earlier appointment? Any help would be appreciated thanks in advance.

May 30, 2018

Buck's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

You should push to get an earlier appointment since Buck may scratch his ear and could easily damage one of the growths which may lead to further issues; if Buck is scratching himself I would recommend placing a cone on him to prevent him getting at it. At this point, I wouldn’t give any medication to him since we don’t know what the specific cause is and it is best in these cases to visit your Veterinarian without any medication in his system. For now, I would keep the growths clean by dabbing them and removing any dirt or debris from around them. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 31, 2018

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Bear

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Shih Tzu

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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Above All Noted

11 y.o. male neutered Shih Tzu with a hx of recurrent ear infections. Otomax applied previously and again today. Noted: severe yellowish discharge with the presence of acute growth just inside "middle" ? ear. Visible and partially obscuring ear canal. administered 25 mg Tramadol and Otomax, cone applied so as to prvent further scratching at ear. No bloody discharge/ no black discharge seen. last 2 days has been slow on intake of food, has been consistent in water intake. Please advise. Google search under Vet Merck is not encouraging.

May 6, 2018

Bear's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

The middle ear is behind the tympanic membrane (eardrum) so you’re probably seeing a mass in the external ear canal, ear canal tumours are more likely to be benign and there are surgical options for removal in most cases. Without examining Bear I cannot say how severe the mass is, but you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination to discuss your options; I’ve put a link below to the right page (based on what you’ve told me in you question) from the Merck Veterinary Manual. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/ear-disorders-of-dogs/tumors-of-the-ear-canal-in-dogs

May 7, 2018

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Sasha

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Lab mix

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Puss
Smelly Ears
Large Growths/Swelling
Severe Headshaking
Blood In Ears

My 8 year old lab mix has severe growths in both ears. Last year she had a small tumor removed from each ear. Since then she has had severe ear infections in both - topical and oral antibiotics have been used with little success. 4 vets with 4 different diagnosis and treatments - with final direction to just keep cleaning them. Her ears are so bad that they have basically closed. When I try and clean them the ears bleed and she cries when it is happening (tears and noises). I can't keep causing her pain and don't know what to do.

Feb. 25, 2018

Sasha's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

Without examining Sasha, I cannot determine the severity of the condition or what to do next, you should probably consider visiting a Specialist as further surgery may be required if the infection doesn’t improve. Removal of a section of the ear canal may be required to help the ear canal drain to prevent build up and improve airflow. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/treatment/lateral-ear-canal-resection www.cliniciansbrief.com/sites/default/files/attachments/Lateral%20Ear%20Canal%20Resection%20in%20Dogs.pdf

Feb. 25, 2018

I have an appointment today to discuss additional treatment options. Thank you for taking the time to assist.

Feb. 26, 2018

Sasha's Owner

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Hoppi

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Golden Labrador

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt
Head Tilt, Pain To The Touch
Sunken In Head

Our dog Hoppi and lad/golden mix who is 9 has had ear infections throughout his life. About 3 weeks ago he presented with an ear infection, our poodle "soudned" the alarm by licking his ear non-stop. The vet said he could not see the ear drum but saw a "white substance" when he flushed it. He said it tested positive for a bacterial infection. In the meantime his head appears to be sinking in, more on the right side but still a little on the left. He took an oral anitibiotic for 10 days, it seemed to get a little better(less pain to the touch), the vet re-check said he still tested positive for bacteria. He prescribed an anti biotic drop, now he seems to be showing more pain symptoms. He is eating and drinking but seems to have excessive urination. My question is can a tumor present as a bacteria infection. We are also concerned about the temporal sinking. What would be the lowest cost test to check if it's more than an ear infection. Also the poodle in our house will not leave his ear alone, usually once its treated he stops licking it. It's been almost 3 weeks and he hasn't let up.

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Luna

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Plott Hound

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lump On Pinna

Hi! Our girl Luna, 11 year old rescue Plott Hound, has just been diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the pinna, left ear. Her lymph node biopsy and chest xray is clear. We are so torn about what to do. Our main question is whether we should amputate her ear (the whole ear would have to be removed). They didn't get clean margins. She is running around, playing, eating, etc. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

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Stewart Wrigley Kepler Stewie

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Shiba Inu

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt

I have a 13 year old male Shiba Inu, he has had a near perfect health record. Recently he has been tilting his head and is not stable walking, his eye sight has weakened in the past 6 months. The Vet put him on prednisone and antibiotic, it has improved his stability. He thinks he has ear infection or a inner ear tumor. He does not have an odor to his ear, he does not itch his ear. His equilibrium is his only symptom. He eats and poops just fine. He even wanted to play with the ball a little bit last night. I will not let Stewie suffer in pain. My Vet says he may be uncomfortable, but not so much in pain. I know he can only be on prednisone for a short while. He just doesn't show the symptoms for tumor by the description in most articles.

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Herbie

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Odor
Head Shaking
Scratching
Drainage
Nerve Damage
Resistant To Treatment

Herbie has been treated for two years for an ear infection in his right ear which either returned within days of treatment was completed or during the treatment plan. Eventually he presented with neurological symptoms on the left side of his face including a narrow eye and his skin appearing tighter. My vet referred him to a medical school hospital dermatology department and we began aggressively treating the infection and suspected allergies. After five weeks of treatment he had a CT scan with contrast and an ear flush. The flush showed zero infection but a small tumor in the middle ear (about the size of a small fingertip). A biopsy was taken. The CT scan showed a small chicken egg sized tumor on the outside of the ear canal, the bigger part of what was in the ear canal. With the tumor penetrating the ear, growing so large, and the neurological signs on the other side of the face the doctor suspects it is malignant and has metastasized to the chest area and is putting pressure on a nerve. Should I get a three view chest xray to locate the potential tumor in the chest to help understand how his symptoms might progress?

Ear Cancer Average Cost

From 187 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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